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Archive for Thursday, September 21, 2000

Ex-lottery director accepts post in Connecticut

September 21, 2000

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— Greg Ziemak, who led a Kansas Lottery that increased its sales but now faces questions about its operations, has accepted a similar job in his home state of Connecticut.

Ziemak did not publicly disclose his specific plans when he announced his resignation last week as executive director of the Kansas Lottery.

In New Britain, Conn., the Connecticut Lottery Corp., created in 1996 to run lottery games for that state, announced that Ziemak would be its new chief executive officer. Ziemak is a native of Manchester, Conn.

Ziemak plans to leave his Kansas job Oct. 1, while a major criminal case against a former lottery employee should still be pending. That former employee is accused of altering tickets and computer records to steal nearly $63,000.

Ziemak wasn't a subject of the seven-month investigation that led to criminal charges against the former employee, but some legislators believe the case raises questions about his management style.

But even legislators who have those questions acknowledge that under Ziemak's leadership, the lottery prospered by introducing new games and strong marketing.

"From the marketing standpoint, he's done a pretty good job," said Rep. Tony Powell, R-Wichita, chairman of the House Federal and State Affairs Committee, which monitors lottery operations. "Where the questions have arisen are on the management side."

In Connecticut, the 52-year-old Ziemak will replace George Wandrak, who resigned in April.

Ziemak spent 18 years in the Lottery Unit of Connecticut's Division of Special Revenue before being replaced as unit chief by then-Gov. Lowell Weicker in 1991. He came to the Kansas Lottery in 1993.

The Associated Press left telephone messages with the Connecticut Lottery Corp., seeking comment.

Ziemak was not available at his Lawrence home. A woman who answered the phone there said, "That depends," when asked whether Ziemak would be home Wednesday night.

When an AP reporter identified himself, the woman said, "He has no comment," then hung up.

The criminal case against the former lottery employee has raised questions about the lottery's operation in part because of that former employee's defense and because of statements by the defense attorney.

Richard Lee Knowlton, 55, faces 268 theft, computer crime and official misconduct charges, most of them felonies. Those charges were filed Friday in Shawnee County District Court by Attorney General Carla Stovall.

Knowlton was the Kansas lottery's information resource manager from 1992 until March, when he resigned. He was working for the lottery when then-Gov. Joan Finney appointed Ziemak as its executive director seven years ago.

Stovall accuses Knowlton of altering tickets and computer records to mislead retail stories into thinking he had winning tickets. Her office alleges that Knowlton cashed 126 tickets illegally.

Knowlton acknowledges altering a dozen tickets and cashing them, but he said he was trying to show lottery officials the flaws in their security system. He contends he is being prosecuted to draw attention away from the lottery's problems.

The question for Kansas legislators is how much responsibility Ziemak bears as an administrator, said Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka.

"I'm in a real wait-and-see mode at this point," Hensley said. "It's too early to say at this point."

Ziemak has his defenders, in part because of the lottery's sales record. Those sales have increased 26 percent since he became director and amounted to more than $192 million during the 12 months ending June 30.

"The experience I've had with Greg Ziemak has been a pretty positive experience over the years," Hensley said. "Up until now, I think the lottery has been viewed by most legislators as a fairly efficient agency. These issues do put a cloud over the lottery."

Knowlton's case is not the only issue involving the Kansas Lottery.

Knowlton maintains he uncovered serious problems at the lottery that other state officials are now trying to keep secret.

His attorney, William Rork, of Topeka, said in court Tuesday that the Department of Administration had investigated allegations of sexual harassment involving the lottery.

Deputy director Ed Van Petten, who will replace Ziemak, confirmed a separate personnel investigation by the Department of Administration, though Van Petten wouldn't give details. He did say the issue involved was unrelated to Knowlton's case.

Also, Van Petten has acknowledged that the Kansas lottery postponed a security audit planned for last year. He blamed the delay the lottery is hoping to hire a firm later this year on an inability to find an auditor.

The Lawrence Journal-World has reported that Gov. Bill Graves, who succeeded Finney in office in January 1995, wanted to fire Ziemak earlier this year. Graves has declined to discuss Ziemak's departure in detail, but has said discussions about Ziemak leaving began as early as two years ago.

Powell said, "I think these incidents raise questions about whether he had a laissez-faire management style."

Powell said he believes more questions about the lottery will be raised as Knowlton's case continues.

"You can bet money, marbles, or chalk," he said. "You're going to hear it all in court."

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